“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
~Henry David Thoreau
Almost a week into driving my Beetle and it’s getting easier.
But my anxiety, if that’s what it is, hasn’t changed. I started noticing that my tension wasn’t easing up on the second day. And that bothered me enough to pay closer attention..
Was it the challenges like traffic, hills, stops and starts, bicyclists? Yes, it was all of those things. Last night, driving home from the Family History Center, it was the glare from oncoming headlights. But I expected to get used to those things as I drove more.
I enjoy facing fears and watching them lose control over me. But this was different. It was repetitive, unpredictable, and exhausting! Knowledge and skills weren’t helping.
What was going on?
“Just sink into the bed,” my mom said.
Twenty six years ago, as the delivery of my first child approached my mother surprised me. She never gives advice. But that was the only positive, helpful, and transformative suggestion I’d received for the upcoming event. When labor pains were in full-swing, and the pain was unbearable, those words came to help me and to save me from myself.
That truth has helped me for the next eight births and everywhere and anytime that anxiety has come to hijack my body for its own pleasure.
I stopped fighting the pain, and started to see them as a means to an end.
I stopped anticipating the contractions.
I stopped wondering how close I was to being able to “push.”
I stopped listening and talking to the nurses and doctors as they went about doing what their job.
I just sank into the bed and experienced labor.
And every time the babies arrived I said, “I’m NOT doing that again!” But I did. And when labor progressed enough where the memories flooded back in, and I noticed my stress escalate, I had to say, “Just sink into the bed,” over and over again, living many moments with pain doing its job, reminding me that I’d chosen the path, had progressed to this point in the journey, and now it was time to “enjoy” it. There was nothing I could do to change what was going on. I had to go with it.
Driving a shift is like going through labor for me. I thought that eventually it would feel like driving a normal car. True, shifting is becoming second-nature, and I’m managing difficulties well. But pain – anxiety, stress, and discomfort aren’t enjoyable and wreak a lot of damage on my nerves and body!
But I’ve also learned something profound about myself, and my life and where I’m at in “managing” and living it:
Living in the moment is harder than you think….
Before I get in my car I mentally map out my route of lights and hills. I project so much anxiety into future moments as I try to fix any problems before they even arrive! I didn’t know how that habit was causing me anxiety. Just the thoughts alone were messing with my blood pressure!
Yesterday I was so done with the white knuckle, clenched-jaw, tense shoulder driving!
“This is NOT fun, and I can’t do this every day!” What a way to live, I thought. But how to change it? And why was I so anxious? I started to notice that all of my thoughts were about roads and how to navigate them instead of “enjoying the journey” as it unfolded.
I know where I’m going, I have knowledge and skills that I bring to each moment. But every moment brings with it its newness. Do you know what I mean? There will always be new people with their knowledge, skills, and life maps that they’re following. There’s no way of anticipating what will happen when our paths intersect, and we share the road for a while.
All I know is what I bring to the moment.
All I can do with the circumstances is my best.
I can stop projecting thoughts “down the road” and focus on what I’m doing and being right now.
“Why do people opt to buy a car like this when they don’t have to?” she asked. My son had asked a similar question earlier in the week as he watched me struggling as I took him to work.
Well, for me, it’s the stuff like childbirth, waiting in the wings before a dance performance, and polar plunges that wake me up and remind me how easy it is to float through life, one moment at a time on automatic.
It’s not okay with me to be on automatic, to become complacent, to drive through experiences without being aware of the gifts that are there to be seen because I’m too concerned about my destination and how I need to get there in one piece.
What kind of life is that?
I want to see you when you’re in front of me. I want to remember that this moment will never be repeated. I want to be aware of all of the joy and / or “pain” that is there as a teacher, friend, and gift to me.
That, for me, is going to take more practice than driving my car will take. It’ll take effort to stay “awake.”
I’ll have to choose freedom and separation from pain that shows up as anxiety every day.
Relationships are like that. You bring yourself to it, but you have very limited knowledge about anther person’s history, fears, insecurities, or journey / path they’re on. And you have to relinquish control over that and them and focus on the moment, making decisions as needed, noticing how those choices add or detract from your divine path.
I think dying might feel the same – facing the unknown, having lived a life that is close to being over, listening to thoughts swirling about beliefs of where you’re going, and what it’ll be like, coming to terms with your lack of control of the eventual outcome and enjoying what you have left.
Eventually we’ll all have to “sink into” that phase of our lives.
Thank goodness we are free to choose how we live a life, be in a relationship with others, and to “let go” when it’s time.